Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The key to unlocking a great plot

Thanks to the sidebar on Jody Hedlund's blog, I've started reading Plot & Structure, by James Scott Bell. In simple terms, Bell sums up plot by using the LOCK system:

L = Lead
"...a strong plot starts with an interesting Lead character. In the best plots, that Lead is compelling, someone we have to watch throughout the course of the novel."

O = Objective
"Objective is the driving force of fiction. It generates forward motion and keeps the Lead from just sitting around." Bell adds that "...objective can take either of two forms: to get something or to get away from something."

C = Confrontation
"Opposition from characters and outside forces brings your story fully to life." Bell quotes another writer who once said, "Get your protagonist up a tree. Throw rocks at him. Then get him down."

K = Knockout
In his book, Bell compares a strong ending to a knockout punch in a boxing match. His suggestion? "...take your Lead through the journey toward her objective, and then send the opposition to the mat."

I can relate to this easy-to-follow language. How about you? What techniques do you use when plotting fiction?

53 comments:

  1. Loved this book! This author is the one who turned me own to The Nifty 350 and scene cards.

    I'd like to say I have a system, but I don't. Maybe one day I will. For now, each first draft is unique in its creation.

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  2. Yeah - that's so straightforward it makes me wonder why it makes my head hurt so much when I try to apply it to my own WIP :)

    I should get my hands on that book...

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  3. J. Kaye, I haven't heard of the Nifty 350. I'll be on the lookout for it!

    Nomes, the concept is simple, now to just plug in all the awesome stuff!

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  4. I love this! And yeah...the book is fab too.

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  5. Christine, I loved it too. Simple for my thick head to absorb!

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  6. I really liked that book too! Simple works for me.
    Dwight Swain's book on the other hand, I'm still trying to decipher. LOL

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  7. I like that summary, too. It is concise, intuitive, and the mnemonic helps store it in a retrievable mental file.

    Plot is my bane. I don't know why that is.

    - Eric

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  8. Julie - I have this one on my night table too, but I haven't looked at it in a while. Easy to read and understand. Thanks for the reminder!

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  9. Great stuff. :) *hearts simple and easy to remember* I don't plot the normal way. I let ideas simmer in my subconscious so that they're ready for me when I want to write. I do keep in mind a simple goal for each chapter as well as the MCs goal for the book. This helps me stay on track. :D

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  10. LOCK...easy enough to remember. I would say it's what I'm ATTEMPTING to do, just don't think I'm there yet.

    Thanks for the cheat-sheet!

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  11. I haven't read this one--I'll have to look for it. I like simplistic thinking--the worst writing books are when the author tries too hard to sound like they are 'all knowledgable'.

    Angela

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  12. Yes! I have this book, too. It's easy to easy to understand and has great practical advice.

    BTW - I love your blog design!

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  13. Thanks guys for stopping by. It's fun to hear about what other writers are reading, and I like knowing what techniques work and which ones don't.

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  14. Guess I need to pick up a book! Thanks for sharing some snippets!!!

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  15. Hey Jen, well, I figured there's great advice out there, I might as well absorb some of it! Thanks for stopping by.

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  16. Great acronym! And I love "Get your protagonist up a tree. Throw rocks at him. Then get him down."

    I need to throw more rocks at my MC. But it's hard for me to hurt her, you know?

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  17. Suzanne, I know! We love our mc's and sometimes it's hard to treat them rotten.

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  18. I don't write fiction, but I'm starting to think about it. Janet Reid gave me a compliment the other day. Only a 100 words, so I'm not getting too excited, but it's made me think about what I'm writing.

    "Get your protagonist up a tree. Throw rocks at him. Then get him down." I like this! It's a bit hard to climb the tree and throw rocks at myself.

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  19. I like the idea of LOCK too. I haven't heard of this book before. Will have to check it out!

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  20. Simon, you SHOULD write fiction! With the work that you do and the things you experience, wow, it would be great.

    Jenn, I had never heard of it before, but I like the simplicity of LOCK.

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  21. I like the sound of the LOCK system. Sounds like I should check this book out.

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  22. I like that. LOCK is easy to remember and it covers the essentials.

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  23. Heather, so far I'm loving this book. It's not showy, it just packs a lot of great information.

    Helen, that's what I thought. Not too many letters to remember, because heck, I can barely remember four!

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  24. It sounds like such a great book -- I'll have to check it out. LOCK is definitely easy to remember. :)

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  25. Starting with a rough outline helps me plot, and as I go along, the outline gets further developed and changed, evolving as I go!

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  26. Sandy, that's what I thought. And good luck to you on your writing goals this summer.

    Joanne, I like your rough outline idea. I still haven't found the golden ticket yet, but I like hearing all these ideas.

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  27. Love this advice, all in a nutshell! I pretty much use the same technique, although I write for children. I still have to have a strong lead character that young readers can identify with, along with confrontation or a problem that they the main character must solve.

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  28. hi. i like your blog!
    please follow check mine out and follow if you wish:

    http://jenniferscavone.blogspot.com/

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  29. Olive, I'm loving this nutshell! Yes, with kids or adults, the plot points seem similar.

    Jennifer, thanks for stopping by!

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  30. I like LOCK. It's easier to remember than "inciting incident" and so on.

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  31. Theresa, me too. Easy to remember!

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  32. I'm not so organized as that! I think alot of what ifs and go from there:)

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  33. Terri, the what ifs seem like a classic place to start!

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  34. Julie, you won a book on my blog today. E-mail me the address you'd want it sent to.
    Congrats!
    jennifer (AT) jennifershirk (DOT) com

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  35. Julie,
    Your posts have been helping me so much! I am just starting to write my very first and oh, I have needed these tips. Today's post is making me go back and check a LOT of areas.
    Thank Goodness for your blog:)

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  36. Jennifer, how exciting! I'm looking forward to reading Pucker!

    Alexis, I'm hoping LOCK helps you as much as it helped me.

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  37. This is great advice and I'm so glad to have read it today!

    With my first book, the direction of my lead character (and POV) were difficult b/c my main characters are fraternal twins with a bit more emphasis on the girl twin. Thanks to my beta's honest feedback, though, I was able to find a clear voice for my story. Great post, Julie! Thanks for sharing.

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  38. I have a little something for you on my blog! Have a nice day:)

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  39. Alexandra, thanks! I'll go check it out now.

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  40. I have this book and it is great. Great post. Thanks for stopping by my blog and commenting.

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  41. Catherine, I'm so glad I've been reading this book. Thanks for stopping by.

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  42. Hi Julie! I'm so glad I found your blog. :) This is a great post. One of my biggest struggles is plot. This sounds like a great book.

    Amy

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  43. LOCK is definitely easy to remember. I don't have a system, but I usually discover the character first then dig for his story. Great post. Sounds like a great book. :)

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  44. A.L., I've struggled with plot too. I want to get it just right in the beginning, but don't always succeed.

    Janet, I thought LOCK was nice and easy too. I'm loving this book.

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  45. I absolutely love this acronym.

    I outline before I start to write, and with that I can tweak the plot to make it stronger.

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  46. So wonderful! What a really good way to look at plot. So simple but effective.

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  47. Medeia, it's nice to know how you put your stories together. It's obviously a winning strategy.

    Carolina, that's what I like about it: simplicity.

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  48. Absolutely a great read!! BTW -- terrific blog.

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